Kevin Law ponders his next career move
Long Island’s business and political communities are abuzz over the news that Kevin Law is stepping down from his position as chief executive of the Long Island Association. But he might have left a year earlier if not for the coronavirus pandemic.
Law had told the LIA’s board last year that he was ready for a change, as he noted in his resignation letter. Among his areas of interest, perhaps whetted by his experience as chairman of the Stony Brook University Council for 12 years, was a career switch to higher education, perhaps as a university president. So when Suffolk County Community College, one of his alma maters, was in the market for a president early last year and came calling, he listened.
"I was interested," Law told The Point Wednesday. "I’m a grad, I used to serve on that board."
The college offered him the job in March — right about the time COVID-19 hit the region. And Law, after consideration, told the college: No.
"It was all about COVID," Law said. "We were just going through the shutdown and I was just about to embark on the 28 or 29 webinars we did to help the business community, and I said, ‘I can’t do this now’."
Suffolk is still looking for a president. And now Law is ready to take a new path. "I am considering a couple of exciting offers and feel very blessed to have great options," Law wrote in his resignation letter — options that had only increased by Wednesday afternoon.
"I’ve gotten several more offers today," Law said, "and it runs the gamut from, without giving specifics, law firms, major very prestigious government relations firms that would love to establish a Long Island beachhead, bank boards, and of course, what’s near and dear to me, energy."
Law, who before joining the LIA was president of the Long Island Power Authority, has been a loud and strong proponent of offshore wind and understands both energy issues and the government and regulatory landscape.
"I’m not ruling anything out," he said. "I now know what it’s like to be a free agent like in major league sports. It’s very humbling and also very sweet."
—Michael Dobie @mwdobie
Is it time for a woman to helm the LIA?
Beyond the question of what’s next for Kevin Law lies an even more significant issue for the region. The next head of the region’s preeminent business group looms large as Long Island renews itself from a COVID-19 pandemic that is beginning to ease.
It was 10 years ago, on Feb. 23, 2010, when the first notice went out seeking interested applicants to replace Matt Crosson, who was leaving for a similar job in Las Vegas.
What has changed in the job search in a decade? This time, there is the expectation that some women will be under consideration. In 2010, the three finalists were all men before Law, then the head of LIPA, made a last-minute entrance onto the short list, and ultimately was chosen. In fact, some of those The Point talked to are confident that after 95 years, a woman is likely to be chosen this time around.
Among the possibilities raised by multiple sources: political consultant Resi Cooper, who has been involved in political advocacy on huge Long Island issues and is a member of the Island’s Regional Economic Development Council.
But Cooper told The Point she’s not interested.
"I don’t feel I am the right person for the job," Cooper said. "I see myself as a partner for whoever it is that’s going to take the job, on regional recovery and all of that, in the same ways I work with Kevin now."
One of the other women mentioned to The Point was Hofstra University Law School Dean Gail Prudenti, who, like Crosson, served as the chief administrative judge of the state court system. Other women whose names have been discussed in interviews include: former State Sen. Elaine Phillips, former Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen, Empire State Development’s Cara Longworth, Suffolk County chief deputy county executive Lisa Black, Hofstra University vice president Melissa Connolly, Bethpage Federal Credit Union senior vice president Linda Armyn, and Discover Long Island president and chief executive Kristen Jarnagin.
Jarnagin, for one, said she was flattered and would consider applying if asked.
"I am probably best known for being Long Island’s cheerleader and I love Long Island, and this is the biggest advocate job for all of Long Island and the region," Jarnagin told The Point. "I’m humbled and honored that my name was even considered in this mix and I would of course do anything I could to further this region and to help."
"But those are some big shoes to fill," Jarnagin added.
The LIA’s chairman, Lawrence Waldman, told The Point that he thinks a successor can be found by Law’s planned departure date of April 1, but said the staff could maintain the organization if the search took longer.
"We are not doing an intergalactic search," Waldman said. "We want someone from Long Island who knows Long Island, someone who’s lived here and worked here."
Jarnagin, for one, is still relatively new to the Long Island scene, having been here for less than six years. But among some of the other names being discussed are those who were around for – and even tried for – the LIA job the last time it was available. That includes former State Sen. Charles Fuschillo Jr., who was a candidate for the job when Crosson left.
Fuschillo has headed the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America since 2014. Would he want to stay more local, and focus on Long Island once more? He didn’t return The Point’s calls for comment. Among the other finalists considered then who might also be on the candidate list now: David Manning, now at Brookhaven National Laboratory. He declined to comment.
LIA Vice President Matt Cohen, political commentator and consultant Chris Hahn, Association for a Better Long Island executive director Kyle Strober, and former State Sen. John Flanagan also came up in conversations.
"So much of what affects the business community are actions or non-actions by our levels of government," said Long Island Builders Institute head Mitch Pally, who’s been in the mix for the LIA job in the past as well. "They need somebody who will continue to understand that."
Sources told The Point the LIA likely would look for someone who would hold the job for a while, as Law, and Crosson before him, did, and someone with experience that touches both the private and public sectors.
"You need to be a non-partisan, collaborative bridge builder to get things done," Law said of whoever succeeds him.
One of the more intriguing possibilities named again and again in conversation on Wednesday: Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.
Bellone is term-limited, so he can’t run again. Sources highlighted his governmental experience, focus on economic development and close relationship to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo as factors that might make him a top candidate for the job.
"Steve Bellone would be the appropriate choice," one Long Island observer said. "The guy is term-limited, he’s probably the only one on Long Island that has the connection to the governor like Kevin does. He could step into that role and it would be seamless."
But Bellone said he is not interested: "I'm currently engaged in work that is critical for the region."
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Suffolk voter enrollment is up, while Nassau enrollment shrinks
New active-voter enrollment numbers reveal that Suffolk ticked up but Nassau ticked down between November and February.
Data from the county boards of elections analyzed by The Point show that the number of active Democrats, Republicans, and Independence Party and blank voters all dropped in Nassau, with only the Working Families Party growing by 16 voters for a total of 2,067. (For context, the county has nearly 400,000 registered Democrats.)
Both Democrats and Republicans each dropped around 5,000 voters in the county, and in February the county logged only 984,414 active voters, down from 996,693.
Suffolk County went from 1,036,204 to 1,054,159 active voters, with gains across parties, including 4,447 more Democrats, 4,583 more Republicans, and 7,797 more blank voters.
Democrats still outnumber Republicans in both counties, but less so in Suffolk.
The growth in Suffolk happened for both major parties, with 9,245 more voters in CD1, which is entirely in Suffolk, 5,906 more in the county’s portion of CD2, and 2,804 in its piece of CD3.
One outside factor that pulled numbers slightly down between November and February in both counties is the regular process of the state BOE informing county boards about voters who are registered elsewhere and should come off the rolls.
Statewide total active enrollment as well as Democrtic and Republican enrollment ticked up slightly between November and February.
On Long Island, both counties have more registered voters now than they did this time last year, according to state numbers, unsurprising due to people signing up for a historic presidential election.
—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano